Summer fun: explore your local community & more

Credit to Author: Baisakhi Roy| Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2019 02:45:57 +0000

Newcomers to Canada can look forward to a hot, hot summer full of fun activities with the family, especially with the young ones. This is also the perfect time and opportunity to get to know your neighbours and the community at large.

Explore your neighbourhood
Summer is short – eight weeks and some change. Keep this in mind when you are planning your day-to-day schedule, especially with young children. Every day doesn’t have to be a trip to Canada’s Wonderland or the Water Park in Granville Island – you can simply start by getting to know your neighbourhood better while enjoying nature around you. Hiking through your neighbourhood trails is not only a healthy activity to enjoy with the entire family but also a way to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings.

And here’s a fun way to incorporate technology into your adventure. Try geocaching – a cool outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices where participants navigate direction on the app and try to find the geocache (container) hidden at a particular location.

Soak up the local culture
Get your kids together with their neighbourhood pals and hit the local museums, libraries and free events in the summer. Major museums like the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, the Royal BC Museum in Vancouver, and not to mention Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell for dinosaur enthusiasts, offer great summer discounts to their regular and specialized programming. And there are the hidden gems – the neighbourhood museums which have documented the history of the community and city you are living in.

Summer is also when all the multicultural festivals and events happen around the country. From carnival-like outdoor events such as the Ribfest (great food, live music and games) to parades like Caribana, a stunning showcase of Caribbean music, cuisine and culture, there’s something for everyone. Invite your new friends and neighbours to join your family for a perfect day out while making some great connections.

“Going to the CNE is our summer tradition but there are so many great local events we try to participate in as a family. I have been meaning to talk to my local councillor about organizing a street festival since it would give us an opportunity to mingle with some more of our neighbours – we’re in a big neighbourhood of at least 10 or 15 streets,” says Indian-born Veena N, from Levi Creek neighbourhood in Mississauga.

See what’s on offer at your local library
The public library system is not only a treasure trove for books and audio-visual material but also hosts excellent events like the Conversation Circle Programs geared toward newcomers. While the young ones read and play, you make new connections and can bond over shared experiences of being new immigrants in Canada. “Sometimes all you want is to have a chat about the day-to-day things in life. Much of a new immigrant’s life, at least in the first few years revolves around finding accommodation or employment or ESL services,” says Polish-born Liliana K, a resident of Oakville, Ontario. “But in a conversation circle, there’s so much more to talk about – your shared interests, hobbies, life experiences. I’ve met some interesting people at my sessions and I feel a few of them will be friends for life.”

Go digital to make new friends
Do some research online and join social media groups so you can attend events in real life. If your neighbourhood has a Facebook page, join it. You can engage in online conversations and find interesting activities to join. If you enjoy a specific activity like hiking, find out if there is a group in your neighbourhood that organizes regular get-togethers. You can also do a google search to see if your local community centre is organizing a community potluck, barbeque or other events in the summer. Settlement agencies also offer information online about the recreational programming services they offer to newcomers (in the summer and throughout the year). Look at your city’s events calendar to keep track of the networking or community-building activities of interest to you. Get your social hat on and attend to make more connections.

Learn a skill or sport
Not a great swimmer? Not to worry. There are swimming lessons available for all skill levels at the local community centre. And if you have kids who want nothing more than to paddle about in the pool, it’s a perfect play date for them with their friends while you share a cuppa with their parents. If you are an expert swimmer, volunteering at a summer swim camp or at the local pool as a lifeguard, is one of the ways to network within the community and get to know more families who share your interests. Learning to swim is right up there with learning to drive in the life skills list, especially for a newcomer in Canada.

Nothing like snow-free roads when you’re learning to drive! Being able to drive affords you the freedom to go wherever you please, whenever you please. Who knows, with enough practice you might emerge a certified license holder by the time fall rolls up and even plan a short road trip with friends. Bonus? You could be the one to volunteer to take up the next carpool when school reopens in September or to the train station to go to work.

Immerse yourself in Canadiana
Speaking of road trips, if you are confident of your driving skills, there’s nothing more exhilarating or more Canadian than exploring Canada! The country is a stunning smorgasbord of mountains, lakes, boreal forests and provincial parks. Your first jaunt doesn’t have to be a cross-country trip. And, if you don’t have your license yet, explore other options like trains or buses that could take you there!

Pick the nearest natural wonder and head there with a couple of other families. Make it a day trip or an overnight one; the more adventurous ones can also attempt to pitch a tent in one of the numerous provincial parks that abound in diverse and rich flora. From personal experience, there are few things as peaceful as the sound of raindrops pattering down on a tent, while camped right in the middle of the great Canadian wilderness. When you become a seasoned camper over the span of a few summers, you can try portaging your kayak around a river to go to another stretch of land!

If you prefer a more indoor vibe, a trip to Ottawa, to the Canadian parliament is educational and as Canadian an experience as it can get. And don’t forget to pick up a gooey beaver tail to munch on your way there!

(By Baisakhi Roy with contributions from Ramya Ramanathan)